Sunday, 4 September 2011

Orford and Thorpeness

We had a couple of days of pretty glum weather so simply stayed put in our accommodation and lounged about doing not very much and conserving energy.  One of my less known vices is the ability to turn into a compulsive gambler at the sight of a seaside arcade of those machines which shove twopence pieces backwards and forward with the faint promise of riches beyond dreams of avarice when the coins come tumbling out.   I always allow myself a pound a day in twopence pieces and never really expect to win, the game is rather in how long it takes me to lose the lot.  Our accommodation is right by Claremont Pier and one of these dens of iniquity was visible from our bedroom so I gave in to temptation and went across for a bit.  I had saved my allowance for five days so had a whole fiver to spend and spent a wonderful two and a bit hours losing the money.  At the end my hands were absolutely filthy, totally engrained with dirt and it took a nail brush and five minutes at the washbasin to restore them to anything like their usual condition.  I happen to think that a fiver for two hours entertainment is exceedingly good value - when I think of the forty quid it costs for a theatre seat these days I think two hours with the shove tuppenies is an absolute bargain.

The weather changed for the better so we got the car out and drove down to Orford, a lovely drive following the road via Blythburgh going and Aldeburgh returning.  Neither Blythburgh nor Aldeburgh were visited this trip, but we have booked back at Lowestoft for a fortnight next year so will see them then.

Orford was in some ways a bit of a disappointment, and in others far exceeded my expectations.  I have been a Ruth Watson far for years and was very dissappointed with The Crown and Castle, big notices saying that parking was for residents of the hotel only and mere diners could b*****r off and find somewhere else to leave their cars, not in quite those words but the intention was clear.  Since she preaches the art of hospitality on television I think she needs to look a bit closer to home and sort out the parking because this was one of the most inhospitable signs I have ever come across.

There was no indication anywhere that there would be a proper car park and we drove round the small square several times because this was Sunday late morning and we were being lulled into a false sense of security by people returning to their cars with newspapers - they just put the papers on the seats and locked the cars again.  So we drove back up the hill and noticed some clear ground without yellow lines near the school where we parked legally and then had a good ten minute walk back down to the Quay.  On the way was a big pay and display car park which we now know about and will use in future.  I don't mind paying for parking - but I rather like the odd sign to advise me that it will be available at some point and give me directions to it.

The Quay was lovely, a proper working Quay and we were just in time to board a boat for a trip around the Ness.  We did not see much wildlife - I think we were a bit late - but there were avocets.  The skipper had recorded a guide and we learned what all the disused WW2 and Cold War buildings had been used for.  Most interesting.  The big eye opener for me on the boat trip was the sky.  I had heard of the famous Suffolk skies but until then had not seen anything very special - the view from the boat changed my mind completely.  The sky was absolutely vast, the clouds were playing "catch" and chasing each other all over the place and there must have been a hundred shades of white up there.  I will look at Constable with a little more respect in future - in order to capture something so ephemeral for posterity is truly the mark of a great landscape paper.

We then went in search of lunch and found  (purely by accident you understand - I had not spent hours trawling the internet beforehand)  Butleys Oysterage which is absolutely brilliant.  The oysters were massive Natives, rich and creamy with that astonishing burst of the sea as you bite into the ice cold flesh.  Onslow had a dozen followed by a plate of grilled squid and I had half a dozen followed by a mixed grill of sardines, squid and mussels.  I think the mussels were the New Zealand green lipped ones so they must have been frozen and the sardines were a bit short on flesh but it was quite satisfactory.  We had a litre of sparkling water and a glass of a rather indifferent Sauvignon Blanc from Chile and the whole bill (including a generous tip for the excellent service) was only £65.  We would have paid more than that for just the oysters in London, and I can think of very few places in the provinces where you can get oysters of that quality.  Next year I shall have a dozen oysters and no main, unless I have room for another half dozen.

Thorpeness was bright and sunny and showing itself off magnificently.  Unfortunately far too many people had come to see it so it was very crowded.  There was a wedding at the golf club which adjoins the sea and there were dozens of men in morning dress accompanied by women in fascinators clogging up the beach.  I felt it unfair to spoil the photographs with a couple of slobs like us pushing in so a proper inspection of Thorpeness will have to wait for next year too.  There were hundreds of swans on the lake, the House in the Clouds rose above everything and a cursory glance revealed much architecture of interest.

On the way home we got a windscreen chip which turned overnight into a crack so had to have a new windscreen fitted.  I cannot recommend Autoglass too highly, they were absolutely wonderful from the first telephone call to the windscreen replacement.  I am such an idiot I did not even know that we had a moisture sensor in the windscreen and if the wipers are in a certain position they will start automatically when it rains.  Because of my ignorance they brought the wrong screen the first time but never complained about my stupidity and remained polite, efficient and very professional. 

So that is the end of this year's Suffolk holiday.  A lovely relaxing break with wonderful food.  I even went in the sea for a swim once, but at 17C water temperature that was not repeated.

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